Raw Essentials

After recent surgery DEBBIE McKINSTRY was given a pack of Raw Essentials tea to bring back her missing “spark” and it worked, despite her initial scepticism. Debbie recently met the people behind the product, Real Housewives of Melbourne star Janet Roach and her son Jake.

More than just a tea

What inspired you to create Raw Essentials?
Janet: In my late teens I became interested in the work of the Chinese herbalists in Little Bourke Street. I read everything I could find on the subject of natural medicine. I formed the view that western medicine originated from anecdotal and scientific research into the power of plants. Western medicines are synthetic replications of plants and can therefore be patented, whereas plants cannot. I also believe that isolating certain properties from plants is a waste of time; there are micronutrients that we have not even discovered yet. These micronutrients are important in the effectiveness and absorption of the nutrients by the body. My research led me to the conclusion that western medicine was a business. Natural medicine was gentler and had far fewer side effects.

My parents-in-law were extraordinary gardeners. They came from a small Greek village, Ioannina, and migrated with my husband and his sister in the 60s. They brought with them centuries of organic gardening knowledge and planted a wonderful vegetable and herb garden in my backyard. This garden became my passion.

My son Jake was in a fire on 2 April 2011. He was in and out of hospital continually having skin grafts for the first few years. He was an amazing patient but he had no energy and no interest in anything. He would just lie on the couch all day. I know it was a miracle he survived but he wasn’t moving on.

Jake: I suffered burns to 69 per cent of my body, rendering me in hospital for two months. After countless surgeries and years of treatment, I lost my zest for life. Mum begged me to try two blends of detox teas.

Janet: He was reluctant. He felt that a tea would be ineffective after all the strong drugs and antibiotics he had been pumped full of. Eventually he relented. After four or five days he broke out in small pustules. No one knew what caused them and he scoffed when I suggested he should slow up on the tea and see if that made a difference.
He stopped the tea and his skin cleared up in a few days. Unsure if it had been the tea, we started again and the same thing happened, only not as severely as the first time. We believe it was his body detoxing.

Jake: Within a short amount of time I started to feel a difference. I felt clear-headed and was getting out of bed in the morning with purpose. It felt like a cloud had been lifted.

Janet: He had more energy; he was more interested in life. He said he could think more clearly; his mood improved. We were both delighted. We knew it was the tea.

"I am passionate about tea because I’m convinced by my own research that teas are the best medicine on the planet.”

How exactly did the Roach Foundation come about?
Janet: Jake and I were discussing where he would like to go in his life. He was more energetic and clear headed now and I posed the question, “If you could do anything in your life regardless of whether you could make money, what would it be?” He thought about it for a few days and came back to me. He had been looking on Facebook at some of the people we met in the burns unit at the Alfred Hospital and was amazed at how much better his scarring was in comparison to some of them. Jake: In hospital there was another young lady who had also been pretty badly burnt. We ended up becoming friends. Whenever I was in hospital for an operation, I would run into her. One time I asked if she had tried any of the treatments I had been having, to which she replied no. I realised how lucky I was that my parents could afford these treatments as they are extremely expensive. I knew I had to make a difference. I had to do something because the treatments were also a huge contributing factor to my outlook on life today.

Janet: Recognising how fortunate he was, Jake was inspired to help other burns patients gain access to the same treatment he was receiving, and so the Roach Foundation was established.

Jake: The Roach Foundation aims to support burns survivors by offering them the opportunity to receive specific treatments that have helped me tremendously with the look of the scarring on my face. One treatment makes the scarring thinner and more like normal skin, as the laser treatment takes away the red colour associated with burns. We also offer other support if needed, on a case-by-case basis. I think it will help others who are finding it mentally tough dealing with new or old burn scarring. We aim to treat their faces as this is the first place people look.

Janet: While brainstorming how to fund the Roach Foundation, we decided to start Raw Essentials Tea and donate funds from the sale of our teas to the Foundation. Now we had a Foundation (Jake’s passion) and we had a means to fund it through Raw Essentials Tea (my passion). It all fell into place like a jigsaw.

Janet: The Roach Foundation needed a charter. We decided that we would work mainly with people aged 18 to 45 because this is where we could make the biggest impact. We concentrate on faces because the treatments are quite invasive and getting a good result can take up to two years depending on the severity of the burn. This also assists patients who are not yet partnered and not established in the workforce. I was diagnosed with acute post traumatic stress disorder in 2015. In a study by the burns unit in a hospital in Western Australia, it was found that up to 40 per cent of family members of severe burns survivors suffer from this disorder. Jake and I decided to add psychological assistance for family members to

The Roach Foundation in the hope of diagnosing issues quickly, unlike in my case where I went undiagnosed for four and a half years.

Jake: Mum recently won $30,000 on All Star Family Feud, so we are excited about starting to treat people in the following months.

“…we are blessed to be able to do what we love."

Why tea?
Janet: Chinese herbalists mixed these foul smelling concoctions you would boil up and hold your nose to drink. They worked, but you had to be keen to take them. I experimented on my own in my kitchen. I read the properties of different herbs, grew what I could and bought the rest. Although we call our blends tea, in reality they are mostly tisanes (blends of herbs). I steep the blends in hot water, not boiling, which can damage the herbs. Because you use the plant in its natural state, with all its micronutrients in natural proportion to one another, I believe tea is the best way to get the most out of herbs. Many cultures have a history of drinking steeped herbs and teas as medicine. This is because it works. I am passionate about tea because I am convinced by my own research that teas are the best medicine on the planet.

Jake: Tea had been such a big part of my mental and physical recovery so why not offer this to others who are in need. I want to offer people a product that I have tried and tested first hand and I know works. I’m also using a percentage of the proceeds from the tea to help those who cannot afford these expensive yet important treatments.

Janet, you are a tea master. How do you become one?
Janet: You do a tea master course. There are a few around the world but most only concentrate on tea. I wanted to do a course that included herbs as well.

The best course is the Australian Tea Masters course (australianteamasters.com.au). It is by far the most comprehensive and well-written course I have come across. Sharyn Johnston, who runs the school, lives and breathes teas and tisanes.

How do you select the ingredients for the tea blends?
Janet: First, my group of master blenders and I discuss what we want the tea to do. It’s much more scientific than you think. For example, we have been working on an aphrodisiac blend for over

12 months. You have to look at the stages your body goes through to achieve the desired result. Many people believe that to get aroused you need to be stimulated. Not true in the case of an aphrodisiac. To truly get aroused, one needs to be relaxed and not stressed first. So the herbs you use must relax and de-stress first. To do this in the correct order, the herbs you choose must steep quickly and be pretty fast-acting. The next step is to use herbs that stimulate blood flow to the correct areas of the body, and these need to be timed to kick in after the first lot of herbs have successfully relaxed and de-stressed the body and the mind. It’s a tricky balance, but one that must be perfected for the tea to give good results. And finally, you need to add herbs that aid and assist the health of the sex organs, to continually improve function. That’s what a good aphrodisiac does.

When we think we may have the balance right, we test the teas on ourselves. If we don’t get the desired results, it’s back to the drawing board. After we are happy the tea has worked on us, we give samples to our friends and family and anyone interested in trying them with us. We ask people to try the tea for a couple of weeks and report back to us with how they felt. If we get the correct response, we then get groups of up to 20 at time, whom we pay and do not know, to trial the tea over a couple of weeks and write a diary of the tea’s effects. Our teas are then checked by a naturopath for safety and for any contraindications.

Same with our detox teas, they took over 18 months to get right. With detox teas you have to ask how the body detoxifies itself. Then you look at herbs and blends that support those systems in your body.

Has being on Real Housewives of Melbourne changed your life?
Janet: I was approached by the producers of Housewives in March 2015. Eight weeks earlier I had left my husband of 17 years. I had been caring for my son and wasn’t working at the time. I had left my home. My life was a bit of a mess. Never in my wildest dreams did I think the show would be such a success and impact my whole life. Our little charity and our tea company now had a platform for huge exposure and people were interested in what we were doing. What started as a good idea to follow our passions gained momentum and we are blessed to be able to do what we love.

Raw Essentials Tea specialises in lifestyle teas and tisanes designed for health and wellbeing.

For more information on the various blends visit: re-rawessentials.com
To find out more about The Roach Foundation, visit: roachfoundation.org.au


Debbie McKinstry is the Publishing Editor of Provincial Living Magazine. Debbie loves European culture and is especially passionate about France and the provincial way of life.